Design4Health 2013 event from Sheffield Hallam’s Lab4Living

Clinicians, patients, academics and designers from across Europe have convened at Sheffield Hallam University to highlight the crucial role design plays in healthcare innovation.

Design4Health2013aDesign4Health 2013, a week-long series of events hosted by Sheffield Hallam’s Lab4Living created a forum to discuss and develop designs and ideas to improve patient care.  Sponsors and supporters included KT-EQUAL and the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care in South Yorkshire (CLAHRC SY).

 

Design challenge

The week began with a high-pressure 24-hour design challenge, which pitted teams against each other to create a device or intervention which would assist in the transition of one of the case conditions, Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

Within each of the four competing teams was someone living with or caring for someone with the case condition, working alongside two clinicians and a team of designers.

Ten countries were represented by the designers: South Korea, Portugal, Italy, France, Mexico, Poland, Argentina, Japan, Denmark and the UK.

The teams created prototypes with 3D printers and presented their concepts before a panel of judges from key healthcare organisations and charities, with two teams sharing an award for best concept. Lab4Living is now working with the teams to take these concepts forward and seek funding for development.

Conference and Exhibition

The week also signalled the start of a major new exhibition featuring different health innovations including a suit made of mohair wool designed to react to individual body temperatures and an exhibit entitled ‘Head-Up’, which displayed a series of neck collars to assist patients with MND and neck muscle weakness.

Design4Health2013bThe main conference was attended by more than 100 delegates from 19 different countries. David Pao, Clinical Lecturer and HIV Physician, Centre for Behavioural Medicine, UCL School of Pharmacy, who attended the conference and exhibition, said:

“When I initially walked into the exhibition, I thought I had entered an art gallery. But as I spent time and looked more closely, I began to see real attention to detail, quality and a considered depth to the issues the exhibits were focusing on.

“The conference was the most uplifting, friendly and welcoming I have ever been to. At the same time, the presentations demonstrated the tangible value of the collaboration between design and health, and the potential to learn from each other, working and moving forward together.”

The conference organiser, Lab4Living, is an interdisciplinary research initiative, based at Sheffield Hallam’s Art and Design Research Centre which develops environments, products and creative strategies for future living in which people of all ages and abilities do not ‘merely survive’ but are enabled and empowered to live with dignity, independence and fulfilment.

Joe Langley, Senior Research Fellow at Sheffield Hallam’s Lab4Living, said:

“This year’s conference was a great platform for different groups of people to see the diverse range of content, methods and disciplines which exist when creating healthcare innovations.

“The exhibition provided a real, tangible focal point for many of the debates in the conference, creating provocations, case studies and examples which enhanced and livened the discussion.”

The Design4Health exhibition runs until Friday July 19 in the SIA Gallery, at the Cantor Building, Sheffield Hallam.

The next Design4Health Conference is planned for 2015.

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Photography credit: Nigel Barker Photography and © Sheffield Hallam University

For more information please contact Ben Jacobs, PR Officer at Medilink Yorkshire & Humber

Email: b.ja...@medilink.co.uk

Telephone: 01142329279

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Tomorrow’s Bathrooms Offer More Relaxing Future

Better bathrooms for everyone

Statistically, it’s in the bathroom that slips, trips and other domestic accidents are most likely to occur – but redesign could make it a much safer and more pleasant place to be.

Design ideas for bathrooms

Design ideas for bathrooms

A radical reassessment led by the Lab4Living at Sheffield Hallam University has generated ideas with big potential to make ‘the smallest room’ a very different environment, benefiting older people as well as other users. Called ‘Future Bathroom’, the research has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), including through its KT-EQUAL initiative which aims to extend quality of life for older and disabled people.

Aiming to think ‘outside the box’, the team devised a range of innovations including:

  • A sink that swivels and can be raised or lowered, making it easier to wash hair or feet, and better for shaving.
  • A toilet incorporating not just a bowl and lid but also a secure seat where people can sit safely to cut their nails, for instance.
  • Soft wall tiles backed by ‘mood’ lighting to create a relaxing atmosphere.

“Bathrooms can be intimidating places, especially for older people, and those with conditions like arthritis or who’ve suffered a stroke can be very anxious about falling or getting stuck,” says Professor Gail Mountain of the University of Sheffield, Director of KT-EQUAL and a co-investigator on the project. “The grab rails and assistive technologies currently available look unattractive and are not always safe.  Also, people sometimes engage in unsafe habits such as pulling themselves up using towel rails. We wanted to meet needs and improve safety in an effective, stylish way.”

Designs combining practicality with style

Testing bathroom designs

Testing bathroom designs

Involving designers, healthcare researchers, occupational therapists and a bathroom manufacturer, the Future Bathroom project consulted with people aged over 50 about their needs. Detailed information was collected about the size and layout of their bathrooms and they were asked to keep records of usage patterns. This data was used to design prototypes of bathroom furniture and fittings that weren’t just ingenious and innovative but will also be practical to manufacture.

“Our aim is to see these innovations become mainstream by working with bathroom manufacturers, retailers and installers and raising their awareness of the huge potential market out there,” Gail Mountain says. “If we can achieve that, our prototypes really could help deliver a clean break with the past.”

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For more information contact Professor Gail Mountain, University of Sheffield, Email: g.a....@sheffield.ac.uk

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Homing In on the Road to Rehabilitation and Recovery

Self-management of health conditions

A unique package of technologies enabling people to manage debilitating long-term medical conditions in the comfort of their own homes could represent a radical step forward in healthcare.

The technologies have been designed to help those recovering from a stroke or heart failure or suffering chronic pain to monitor themselves on a day to day basis, while also motivating them to take the right type and amount of therapeutic exercise. This means the process of recovery and rehabilitation can carry on even in the absence of doctors, nurses and rehabilitation professionals.

The package has been developed by the SMART[1] consortium of four UK Universities[2], funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and supported with knowledge transfer through its KT-EQUAL initiative, which aims to extend quality of life for older and disabled people. Including medical researchers, psychologists, designers and computer scientists, the team has developed and trialled prototypes that could help thousands of people and relieve pressure on healthcare services – a valuable benefit in view of the UK’s ageing population and the increasing number of people living with long-term conditions.

Simple technologies for home use

A mobile device enables the user to access data ‘on the go’ while a range of condition-specific technologies supplement the core system. For instance, people with stroke are provided with a special insole equipped with a sensor that monitors balance and gait – they can use this information to adjust the way they walk and minimise the risk of a fall. For people with heart failure, weighing scales and blood pressure monitors feed data to a PC-based ‘hub’ where a simple touchscreen displays it clearly and comprehensibly, together with more general information about the user’s’ condition.

“We’ve focused on complex conditions that mainly affect older people,” says Professor Gail Mountain of the University of Sheffield, Director of the SMART consortium and KT-EQUAL. “But each of the conditions is very different. Unlike chronic heart failure which tends to worsen gradually, a stroke can seriously disable anyone without warning. Similarly, stroke rehabilitation can deliver significant benefits in terms of restoring functionality, whereas the best that can be achieved for some other conditions is to maintain the status quo.  For people with chronic pain, in particular, correct pacing of activity is vital as their condition often varies from one day to another and they often do too much or too little exercise as a result. By providing feedback in a flexible and user-friendly way, technology not only makes it feasible to self-manage these conditions but also enables strategies to be customised to meet differing needs.”

The philosophy underlying the consortium’s approach is simple – it’s the patient who’s the expert and the healthcare professional should be assisted to provide the tools and support to help the patient meet their needs and achieve their personal goals. Exercise plays a key role, with the setting of achievable targets being complemented by the provision of technologies that allow progress to be monitored. The aim is to build up the patient’s confidence and incentivise them to increase their activity levels and so boost their health and wellbeing.

“Rehabilitation and recovery can be a very tedious business,” Gail Mountain explains. “Empowering the patient to keep track of their own progress, day by day and week by week, is an excellent way of making the process satisfying and is more likely to give good outcomes.”

The consortium’s work has been informed through first-hand input from patients and healthcare professionals, with consultations pinpointing needs and the team then devising solutions by integrating off-the-shelf technologies with their own innovations. Initial results from technology evaluation have been extremely encouraging and the team is currently extending its approach to include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A further aim for the future is to adapt the technology to meet the needs of people suffering from more than one long-term health condition.

“Fundamentally, our objective is not just to demonstrate the enormous potential of technology-based self-managed rehabilitation and recovery but also to raise awareness of the potential for it to transform the healthcare landscape,” Professor Mountain comments. “We’re now planning to identify industrial partners who can help us commercialise our solutions and hopefully start bringing them to market within the next two years or so.”

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For more information contact Professor Gail Mountain, University of Sheffield, Email: g.a....@sheffield.ac.uk, Web: thesmartconsortium.org



[1] Self-Management supported by Assistive, Rehabilitation and Telecare technologies.

[2] The Universities of Sheffield, Bath, Newcastle and Ulster.

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Memories Are Made of This

A unique, easy-to-use activity that encourages people with dementia to chat and reminisce about the past could deliver important health benefits.

Sample CIRCA screenshot

Sample CIRCA screenshot

CIRCA (Computer Interactive Reminiscence Conversation Aid) is a touchscreen-based system generating photos, music and videos that span the 1930s to the 1980s. By stimulating the less impaired part of the memory, it enables people living with dementia to communicate and interact with family, friends and carers in a relaxed, enjoyable way.

Conversation tool for people with dementia

Development of this simple ‘switch on and use’ system, designed for care settings, day centres or the home, has been led by the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through its KT-EQUAL initiative, which aims to extend quality of life for older and disabled people.

“There’s no mouse, no keyboard, no logon and users proceed at their own pace,” says Professor Arlene Astell, a psychology specialist on the project. “CIRCA provides much-needed cognitive stimulation plus the sharing and fun crucial to coping with dementia and ageing in general. The system also has real potential as a tool for speech and language therapy.”

Because the material in CIRCA’s database is very generic, it avoids the stress that can result if those living with dementia can’t remember people in family photos, for instance. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers – CIRCA simply provides the visual and audio prompts that allow conservation to head off naturally in any direction. A photo of Trafalgar Square, for example, could trigger a discussion about buses, pigeons, holidays, the weather and many more topics besides.

This groundbreaking project brought together experts in psychology, design and IT, working with health and social care providers. Patient groups were prominently involved and thousands of people have already tried out CIRCA in the UK and overseas.

Reminiscing made more fun

CIRCA in use

CIRCA in use

“Conversation is often a real barrier for people with dementia and causes difficulties for their loved ones and others caring for them,” Arlene Astell explains. “By focusing on what they can do, CIRCA helps those living with dementia to stay active and improves the quality of their relationships with those around them. It may seem surprising but, used correctly, IT really can aid face-to-face social interaction.”

A spinout company, Circa Connect, is currently seeking the investment needed to bring CIRCA to market (www.circaconnect.co.uk).

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For more information contact: Professor Arlene Astell, University of Sheffield, Email: a.as...@sheffield.ac.uk

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Gloves Are On, in Drive for Better Design

More practical products and packaging

Innovative gloves and glasses that help designers empathise with problems faced by older and disabled people are catalysing the development of packaging that’s easier to open and products that are easier to handle.

Pill bottle top

Few of us haven’t experienced the frustration of battling to read text embossed in plastic, like on this pill bottle top.

Working with industry, charities and the healthcare sector, the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge has developed these tools to complement guidance that encourages designers to make products more user-friendly. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has supported this pioneering work through mechanisms such as its KT-EQUAL initiative, which aims to extend quality of life for older and disabled people.

From microwave meals with difficult-to-read instructions to hard-to-operate mobile phones, characteristics such as size, shape, colour, text size and feature design determine how people interact with products at every stage of the ‘consumer cycle’, from purchasing and storage to opening, use and eventual disposal. This is an especially big issue for people with age-related long-sightedness or conditions like arthritis.

“Few of us haven’t experienced the frustration of battling to open some packaging or struggled to read text embossed in plastic, and this can be particularly challenging for older and disabled people,” says Dr Sam Waller, who’s played a leading role in the research. “Changing the design of items can have a huge impact by enabling people to live independently for longer.”

Impairment simulation

Impairment simulation by Cambridge Engineering Design Centre

Around 150 companies have already accessed the free online resources developed by the team, who’ve also sold hundreds of pairs of special gloves and glasses that designers can wear to understand the day-to-day difficulties faced by people with infirmities. The gloves, which incorporate straps that restrict grip and movement, were developed by observing how older people interact with products and packaging; the glasses replicate conditions ranging from mild age-related long-sightedness to severe blindness. A computer-based Exclusion Calculator also makes it possible to work out the percentage of people who wouldn’t be able to complete a specified task.

Designers empathising with older people

“Our innovations are already impacting industry – one of the world’s biggest food manufacturers has used them to redesign their packaging,” says Ian Hosking of the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre. “It’s about opening designers’ minds to everyday problems and inspiring them to come up with practical, competitively priced solutions that tangibly improve people’s lives.”

The simulation gloves and glasses are available for sale from www.inclusivedesigntoolkit.com, where you can also find the freely available Exclusion Calculator plus guidance on inclusive design from the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre.

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For more information contact: Dr Sam Waller, University of Cambridge, Email: sam....@eng.cam.ac.uk

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Technology Comes Home to Help People with Dementia

Independence for people with dementia

Tim Adlam at work at a house in Gloucester

Tim Adlam at work at a house in Gloucester

Ingenious but unobtrusive technologies that help people with dementia maintain their independence and live in their own homes for longer are also delivering valuable savings in health and social care costs.

Thousands are already benefiting from these ‘smart’ technologies that, for example, prevent domestic fires and floods, locate mislaid possessions and avert potentially dangerous wandering or roaming. The innovative solutions have been developed by a consortium led by the University of Bath and including charities, architects and experts in health and social care. Sources of funding have included the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through its KT-EQUAL initiative, which aims to extend quality of life for older and disabled people.

“Experiencing difficulty with short-term memory doesn’t necessarily equate to an inability to think and act,” says Dr Tim Adlam of the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, who led the work. “Our philosophy has been to harness sensing and control technologies that help people with dementia maximise their capabilities, thus relieving strain from health and social care services. We initially met some scepticism and the belief that technology-based solutions wouldn’t be suitable because dementia and technology don’t mix. But our approach has been to automate where appropriate and mimic closely what an actual carer would do in a given situation.”

Technology tailored to people’s needs

A detailed survey of day-to-day concerns that most worry people with dementia enabled the team to pinpoint priorities for action. Largely by adapting off-the-shelf technology, they then devised a range of answers to these problems. Among the most inspired innovations are:

  • Cooker knobs that automatically turn off if a sensor detects smoke, preventing fires caused by pans accidentally being left on, and taps that turn off if a bath or sink is about to overflow. As well as being completely normal in appearance, to avoid confusion and distress the knobs and taps are cleverly designed to feel like they’re back in the ‘off’ position the next time they’re used. Automatic messages such as “your bath is ready”, recorded by someone the person trusts, are replayed around the house or flat as necessary.
  • A tag incorporating a radio receiver that can be fitted to pension books or other vital possessions. If the possession is lost, a press of a button on a wall-mounted base station is all it takes to send a signal to the tag, which bleeps at a frequency specially designed to make it easy to locate.
  • A bed sensor that responds to someone getting up in the night by switching on low-level lighting on the way to the bathroom, reducing the risk of a fall. If sensors detect the person approaching the front door, a recorded message gently deters them, saying “it’s the middle of the night, you don’t need to go out.”
message box (top right) and bed occupancy sensors under bed leg

message box (top right) and bed occupancy sensors under bed leg

A key focus has been to identify activities like cooking that people with dementia are capable of, and then using technology to make the activity safe. This not only boosts quality of life but also improves peace of mind for families, friends and carers. Another priority has been to find solutions that help people with dementia maintain their train of thought, which can be a major challenge for them.

“With all the innovations we’ve developed, we canvassed the views of people with dementia to see what would make them feel more empowered and secure,” Tim Adlam says. “First we set out to identify and really understand specific needs and only then tried to pinpoint the technology solutions that could tackle them most effectively. We believe we’ve demonstrated the huge potential of user-centred design in the field of dementia care.”

Although the measures can all be incorporated into new-build flats and houses, retrofit offers a potentially much bigger and more beneficial market. Enabling those living with dementia to stay for longer in the homes they’re familiar with and feel secure in can offer enormous pluses in terms of health, wellbeing and autonomy.

What’s more, many of the measures could have an even wider market – and not simply because they can meet the needs of other cognitively impaired people or of older people who don’t live with dementia. “Everybody has times when they’re tired or distracted,” Tim Adlam explains. “Most of us have experienced losing our keys, for example, or accidentally letting a bath overfill. Our ultimate aim is to work with manufacturers and retailers to bring the technology solutions we’ve developed into the mainstream and get them into places like DIY stores. We’ve already licensed some of the devices and they’re already available – the objective must now be to open up the market even further for this type of life-changing ‘smart’ technology.”

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For more information contact Dr Tim Adlam, Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, Email: t.d....@bath.ac.uk

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Naidex 2013

NEC Birmingham
30 April 2013 – 2 May 2013

Naidex 2013 is the UK’s largest disability, homecare and rehabilitation event.

This year members of the KT-EQUAL team are presenting as part of the ‘Tomorrow’s World Seminar Programme, Trade Lounge Theatre on Thursday 2 May 2013:

Promoting digital participation of older people, Leela Damodaran, Professor of Digital Inclusion and Participation, University of Loughborough

Designing our tomorrow towards a more inclusive world, Ian Hosking, Senior Research Associate, Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge

For further information click here

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IROHLA-New portal seeks to improve health literacy among older EU population

In the current context of rapid ageing population and economic austerity, improving on older people’s knowledge in the health area and ensuring their capability to act on this knowledge is key to promote active and healthy ageing. A new European Union  Framework Programme 7 Project, IROHLA, has developed a website to share information and experience on health literacy among different countries and sectors.

IROHLA – ‘Intervention Research On Health Literacy among Ageing population’ focuses on improving health literacy for the older people in Europe. It aims to take stock of on-going health literacy programmes and projects by making use of knowledge and experience of programmes in other sectors (e.g. private and social sectors).

The project – coordinated by the University Medical Centre Groningen – will identify, validate and present a set of maximum twenty interventions, which together constitute a comprehensive approach for addressing health literacy needs of the ageing population in European countries. These interventions will be part of an evidence-based guideline for policy and practice for local, regional and national government authorities to start action.

The project involves representatives of the ageing population, academia, all levels of governments, the business community and other stakeholders to ensure feasibility, usefulness and effectiveness of selected interventions.

EuroHealthNet will in close cooperation with AGE Platform Europe coordinate the dissemination of the project’s outcomes.

For further information, visit:

www.irohla.eu – www.healthliteracyineurope.eu

EuroHealthNet’s Healthy Ageing website

For more information, please contact EuroHealthNet’s Network Development and Healthy Ageing Coordinator Karen Vandeweghe.

[Text provided by: IROHLA team]

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The first Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare projects

The first CATCH projects
Friday 26 April 2013
10am – 4pm
St Mary’s Church and Conference Centre – Garden and Pavilion Rooms, Sheffield

This event will showcase short-term projects which have been conducted over the past five to six months by the team within the wider Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Group at the School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield. The six projects have focused on the development of assistive or digital healthcare technology solutions for people with a range of health conditions such as dementia, visual impairment, diabetes and speech difficulties. These projects will be presented in sessions throughout the day, including discussions of the project activities and what the next steps for these projects might be.

Free to attend with lunch and refreshments provided.

For further details and to register: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6154188343#

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Design that Makes a Difference, Seminar and Exhibition, Friday 19 April 2013

Design That Makes a Difference pamphlet coverThe ‘Design that Makes a Difference’ seminar and reception at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art, felt like a very special occasion. Rama Gheerawo, the Centre’s Deputy Director, described it as the ‘realisation of a dream’.

The accompanying exhibition has been curated in conjunction with Onny Eikhaug, Programme Leader of the Norwegian Design Council, and also receives support from the Norwegian Embassy.

Seminar

The seminar was chaired by Jeremy Myerson, Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and included presentations from Jan Stavik, Managing Director, Norwegian Design Council and Michael Wolff, UK Government Inclusive Design Advisor. Case studies from two of the projects were also showcased – Oyvind Gronli presented Blanke Ark, an election system, and Ben Terrett introduced the Gov.uk website.

In his introduction, Jeremy Myerson affirmed that people come first. Design can be an agent for social change and inclusion.

Jan Stavik commented on the ‘design for all’ principle and said that it is about improving people’s daily lives and about finding better solutions. In looking at demographic changes he said that over the next few years, 50% of the population in European countries will be over 50. There are business opportunities presented by these changes.

‘Inclusive design’ has been receiving more and more attention. In 2000 the UK government defined it as ‘ a process whereby designers ensure that their products and services address the needs of the widest possible audience’. In keeping with the idea of social equality enshrined in the Nordic model of democratic governance, in 2005, 16 Norwegian government ministries committed to an Action Plan implementing inclusive design in Norway by 2025.

The keynote presentation was given by the inspirational Micheal Wolff, UK Government Inclusive Design Advisor. He spoke about changing perceptions of design and the shift towards immersive ways of understanding people as part of design processes. His keynote drew upon case stories and was a call to action for us all to make the most of our lives.

Reflections from his talk included:

  • Start every project not knowing what you’re going to do.
  • Put yourself in other people’s shoes – he gave the example of Patricia Moore who at the age of 28, disguised herself as an 80 year old to experience what is was like for older people living in cities across the United States. Discovered that things didn’t work for older people. Her work initiated the development of transgenerational products. Read more here.
  • Ask ‘why are you here?’ – what opportunities are you taking in life?
  • Design involves: Curiosity, Appreciation, Imagination
  • All design is about making a difference to people’s lives.
  • Find the right questions. ‘Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds,’ Norman Vincent Peale

Case study: Blanke Ark, Government Voting System

Oyvind Gronli, Industrial Designer at Innovativoli spoke about design processes.

For Oyvind, the top three assets for designers are: Empathy, Humility and Holism

Blanke Ark voting equipment

People-centred design led to multiple awards for the Blanke Ark designs

Blanke Ark is an inclusively designed election system that makes it easier for everyone to participate in democratic processes. Everything from booths to ballot papers have been designed to allow people with different needs and abilities to access polling stations.

Some of the features of the design include:

  • a voting booth which is easy to get into and out of for everyone
  • ballot papers designed so that voters intuitively will fold it the right way
  • orange color contrast. An orange tape on the floor helps to guide voters through the room
  • a ballot box designed so that the ballot is easy to deliver for everyone

The solution was implemented in 173 municipalities from the 2011 election.

Blanke Ark means blank sheet. In some ways this reminded me of Michael Wolff’s comment about starting every project by not knowing. There’s something open and exciting about beginning with a blank sheet. To find out more about the project, visit the Innovatilovi website’s pages here

Case study: Gov.uk

Ben Terrett, Head of Design, Government Digital Service (@gdsteam on Twitter)

Ben spoke about the recently launched online public services portal for the UK government. Impressively, it has brought together in one place information from over 2,000 different sites. Ben described the government push behind this in the context of Martha Lane Fox’s report ‘Directgov 2010 and beyond: revolution not evolution’ and a move towards digital by default.

The design approach encompassed:

  • make it easy and simple to use
  • start with user needs
  • accessible design is good design
  • this is for everyone – slogan

Ben highlighted that focusing on what people are looking for and want changes the way information is presented. For example, anyone looking for bank holidays is usually wanting to know when the next UK bank holiday will be. This is now clearly highlighted on the webpage – other dates are also available as needed. In other cases, focusing on needs meant that some content was lost: a little-known section about looking after bees is one of the areas that has not made it into the new site.

The portal continues to evolve. At the time of writing, 21 of 24 ministerial departments have moved their corporate websites to Gov.uk. More will join soon.

Other points noted include:

  • Government research indicates 17% of the population are not online or won’t go online.
  • 1.7bn – 1.8bn in savings each year according to The Digital Efficiency Report
  • Government support – here’s the link to the video of the Rt Hon Francis Maude MP talking in the House of Commons, 20 March 2013 about designing around the needs of the user.

It’s fascinating to note that the typeface used on the Gov.uk site is based on Margaret Calvert’s designs for road, rail and airport signs in the 1950s and 1960s.

Exhibition Opening

Exhibition easels

Exhibition displays on untreated wooden easels

Walking into the Henry Moore Gallery, I was struck by the easel display setting chosen to exhibit the projects. The room was infused with the fresh resin of wood. Rama had mentioned that the design took its inspiration from Norwegian barns.

The exhibition showcases twenty leading projects drawn from both Norway and the UK, chosen to demonstrate the benefits of people-centred design thinking. Ranging from passenger trains, emergency ambulances, voting systems, government websites and community initiatives, they provide a snapshot of the developing practice of social design – design that makes a difference.

The exhibition was officially opened by the Ambassador of Norway, HE Mr Kim Traavik. As he welcomed us all and celebrated the opening of the exhibition, I noticed that some of the audience lined up behind the orange tape which was set along the floor and formed part of the set of the Blanke Ark election display. Subtly, the taping on the floor guided our own movements during the reception event.

The exhibition features the new BT Big Button phone which is due to be launched later this year. The work of the i-design team, University of Cambridge, one of the KT-EQUAL consortia is also featured as part of the Nestle Inclusive Packaging exhibit.

I am intrigued by the changing role of design in society. This exhibition showcases examples of design and how it is changing peoples lives for the better. I like the empathic, humanistic, imaginative approach that characterises this exhibition. Design makes a significant contribution to improving our lives and still more can be done. My question is, are there limits to how far this broader notion of design as an agent of social change can go?

The exhibition is open until Friday 26 April 2013, 13.00pm, Henry Moore Gallery, Royal College of Art. Free admission. Do get along to see this if you can.

Written in a personal capacity by: S Bangar, Researcher/KT-EQUAL Research Co-ordinator, April 2013

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